‘New gameplay forms are too late’

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Florian Weissmann, children’s football representative for the DFB Youth Committee © ARCHIVE

Children’s soccer actor Florian Weissmann explains the potential for reform and removes prejudices

Zone – Offensive Soccer for Kids: For the 2024/25 season, new formats of playing soccer for kids will be introduced across the country. League youth leader Florian Weissmann has been working for years on how to make the game as attractive as possible to young people. One thing is particularly important for Weißmann, who is also the children’s football representative on the DFB’s youth committee: that federations and clubs implement the reform with a double pass. In an interview, the 42-year-old talks about the resistance that had to be overcome on the way to a major reform in children’s football, explains the opportunities and possibilities of new forms of play and gets rid of prejudices.

Mr. Weißmann, New forms of football will be introduced to children across the country at the start of the 2024/25 season. Do you think this is a long overdue step? Or does the decision come at the right time?

The introduction is definitely a long-awaited step, since for many years there have been more and more opportunities for our children to spend their free time. Sure, football thrives on tradition, but society – and thus our children – grow less with tradition, here and now fast enough. We adults in Germany are definitely having a tougher time with the changes, so we had to make good preparations to introduce modern and child-friendly forms of play.

Associations are often accused of making top-down and purely theoretical decisions, without properly involving clubs and gaining sufficient practical experience.

The accusation may be true in some cases. In children’s football, my belief from the start has been that we have to involve and involve the coaches and club managers, as well as our relay leaders. Through a lot of educational work, we have convinced more and more football managers with ideas and goals for new forms of play. We have been supported by coaches who have been experimenting with smaller forms of play for several years. In short: Clubs and associations have embarked on a common path. The binding introduction is the result of previous experience.

How many obstacles did you have to overcome along the way? And how did that happen?

The three-to-three known as “Funino” is understood by many as a form of play appropriate for children. Extensive educational work on the general concept of football development for children is still necessary today. Above all, the people in charge of the state associations do a great educational job here with online and face-to-face courses or also trial match days. This will also be the right path in the future. And to be honest: Adults usually have a hard time, kids want to play first, and the shape of the game is secondary.

What are the most important results of the multi-year pilot phase?

It was true that the federations and clubs took up the development and implementation of children’s football together. We shared our experiences in online meetings across Germany with representatives of children’s football in state federations, as well as with representatives of clubs. This constructive exchange must continue, because nothing is imposed from above, but something is developed together.

What were and still are the biggest concerns?

Initially, the necessary financial investment in mini-goals was a big problem. Meanwhile, more and more managers are seeing investments in child and youth work making the association future-proof. The second major issue is goalkeeper training which many people think does not exist. The general concept clearly states the goalkeeper game from the older age group F-Junior and beyond.

No league, no tables, no official referees, no goalkeepers for the youngest – has football left its roots?

The Fair Play League – matches without referees and leagues without tables – is already prevalent among juniors G and F. What are the roots? The Bundesliga? National team? Or is it street football? Or a kick between friends in the village square?

Why is the application still binding for two years?

We want the introduction to grow from G to F to E juniors, with a binding 2024/25 implementation of the game, and the goal is clear to everyone – and implementation can start with current football rookies.

What are the biggest challenges – organizationally, among others?

For sure the biggest change will happen on the field. There are more children playing at the same time and you need more smaller goals. Experience so far shows that a certain routine starts a few days after a match.

It became difficult for children to continue to play football. There are many opportunities for recreational activities, as well as outside of sports. What is the significance of the changing forms of play in this regard?

Weissmann: Smaller teams mean the kids can play longer if they want to do something else in their spare time on match day. On the other hand, if there are more children, it is possible to participate in one game day with two or more teams. All children come to play with it. This is exactly the approach that aims to connect children with football. Because only those in the middle of it will stay there longer.

Interview: BFV

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